I CAN’T HELP IT. I regularly lecture my three grown kids about watching their language around their very young children. Children, I’m fond of saying, are like sponges. They pick up negative words, even when they have no idea what they’re saying. I feel strongly about adults showing verbal restraint around children – and so I tend to become a nag.
It’s no mystery how and why a three-year-old will get such satisfaction from repeating an obscenity. They hear a parent or a babysitter mouth an inappropriate word. They see the word used with extreme emotion. Then, they take in the reaction of people around them.
How cool is that?
That must be a very special word to get such a reaction. Kids are smarter than we think. They not only claim the word as their own, but they also soak in exactly where and when to use it to get the maximum effect.
One of my daughters has put a stop to the expanded language problem – probably temporarily – by making her three-year-old ‘boss of bad words’. She has given him the authority to chastize and correct anyone, anywhere, who uses a ‘bad’ word. He’s really getting off on being a ‘boss’.
Unfortunately, this didn’t go into effect until I was shamed, big time, by that same child.
We were having a big family dinner in a local restaurant. Our three-year-old had been given an electronic toy to keep him amused. He was getting more and more frustrated and, suddenly and unexpectedly, he slammed the toy down on the table and, in a loud, clear voice that carried the length of the restaurant, expressed his irritation.
“How do you turn this bloody thing off?!”
There was sudden quiet as every head in the restaurant turned. And, in almost one voice, the adults at our table said MY name. What could I say? They were right. The expression
With a straight face, one of my daughters broke the silence. “Mom, you have to show some restraint around little kids. You see, they’re like sponges….”
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Published March 2010